The depiction refers to the miracle of Sravasti where Buddha performed eight miracles to demonstrate his superiority over the Kasyapas. During the first miracle, Buddha levitated in the air, emitting flames from his shoulders and water from his feet. Then, during the second and decisive miracle, the two Naga kings, Nanda and Upananda, created a lotus on whose petals the Buddha seated himself and by supernatural power created multiple images of himself that issued all around him.
The present scene refers to this second miracle, focussing on the essential elements. Buddha is seated on an inverted lotus throne, in turn supported by two elephants centered by a lion or a further elephant whose face is missing. The eminent early scholar Alfred Foucher first pointed out that the Sanskrit word naga denotes both serpent and elephant, allowing for the sculptor to draw on a linguistic pun and the interpretation of the two elephants as elephant-nagas evoking the serpent kings Nanda and Upananda, see H. Ingolt, Gandharan Sculpture in Pakistan, 1957, p. 125. The elephants trunks appear serpentine in their upturned curved form supporting lotus buds; Ingolt illustrates a related example in an architectural setting with three elephants supporting the throne above water, clearly establishing the connection to the Sravasti miracle, see Gandharan Art in Pakistan, fig. XVI, 4; and further examples where the base is supported by three elephants surrounded by water (figs. 257 and 261). A frieze with the teaching Buddha on a throne supported by two elephants centered by a lion is in the Matsuoka Collection, see Matsuoka Museum of Art, Ancient Sculptures from the Matsuoka Collection, 1994, pl. 13.